Climate Must Remain A Top Priority For Canada’s Governments
Insight Climate Change is a present danger, one that our nation needs to get ahead of. The Insurance Bureau of Canada discusses their role in working with government, and society at large to ensure Canadians are ready to deal with this new reality.
Climate change has moved from future threat to present danger. It is affecting our country both environmentally and economically. Severe weather is already costing Canadian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. We are seeing more rain, snow, storms, and flooding in almost every part of the country.
Last year was one of the most violent and costly in terms of severe weather. According to Catastrophe Indices and Quantification, insured damage for 2016 topped $4.9 billion — smashing the previous annual record of $3.2 billion set in 2013.
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) data shows that the annual economic cost of disasters around the world has increased five-fold since the 1980s. From an average of $25 billion a year in the 1980s, it increased to an average of $130 billion a year in the 2000s. In Canada, federal disaster relief spending rose from an average of $40 million a year in the 1970s to an average of $100 million a year in the 1990s. In the first six years of this decade, federal disaster relief spending rose even more to an average of over $600 million a year. In 2013, federal spending hit a record $1.4 billion, largely due to the flooding disasters in Ontario and Alberta.
Moving forward, floods are expected to cause the majority of damages, largely as a result of multiple-day rainfalls across the Prairies and Rockies. At IBC, we recently mapped the flood risk of people across the country. We found that 19 percent of Canadian households are at some level of risk.
Many people in high-risk areas find it difficult or impossible to purchase flood insurance. Therefore, as a nation, we remain exposed to the safety challenges and financial costs that will invariably accompany severe weather threats.
The Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program — operated by Public Safety Canada – is the primary source of financial assistance for provinces in the event of emergencies. But according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the fund is not adequately supported in the government’s current fiscal framework.
Policymakers must fully accept and swiftly adapt to this new reality — even as they continue with efforts to combat climate change over the longer term. Governments across Canada have ambitious approaches that take the first steps in limiting future damage. In particular, IBC commends several provincial governments for their plans to fund strong resilient infrastructure and implement adaptation strategies which address the real, immediate effects of climate change.
At the federal level, the Government of Canada has committed more than $21.9 billion over the next 11 years toward green infrastructure — including projects that deal with the risks associated with flooding and wildfires.
The frequency and severity of natural disasters related to climate change are having a significant impact on Canadians. Canada must build a culture of disaster risk reduction that resonates with consumers and engages all levels of government, businesses, and institutions. Canada’s insurers will continue to work with the provincial and federal governments in the areas of mitigation, adaptation, and emergency management — all of which form the basis of a comprehensive climate strategy.